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“There’s no money above the fifth fret”
The above, while originally uttered by a bassist, has become a favorite of other stringed instrument enthusiasts, banjoists included.
The basic idea being that there are plenty of pleasing sounds to be made within the first 5 frets of an instrument. Oftentimes, that’s also the place where an instrument really shines.
And it’s a good reminder to keep things simple. To maintain focus primarily on what sounds best, not what’s most complicated or technically advanced.
Clawhammer banjoists in particular seldom venture much past the 5th fret. And while, for the reasons mentioned, there’s good reason to keep this as home base, I also think it’s worth moving out of that comfort zone from time to time.
I think part of the reluctance to explore the up the neck regions of the fretboard comes from a misconception that playing the banjo there is HARDER. But it’s only harder because it’s less familiar.
The space between the first 5 frets feels easier because it’s what you’re used to. It’s easier because you’ve already learned it.
All this to preface the fact that in my second run through this week’s tune, the minstrel-era spawned folk classic “Golden Slippers,” I stay well above the 5th fret for both the A and B parts of the melody.
G tunes, and standard G (gDGBD) tuning, are particularly well suited for these up the neck adventures, as it’s tailor made for playing out of chord positions (the only “hard” part about it then, is in learning where those positions are. Until you learn them, that is, and then it’s easy 🙂 ).[RELATED: I cover a number of simple tricks for navigating all around the fretboard in any key in the Essentials of Music Theory for the Clawhammer Banjoist module inside the Breakthrough Banjo course.]
gDGBD tuning, Brainjo level 3 (4 if you venture “up the neck”)
Notes on the Tab
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes. To learn more about these, check out my video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
[RELATED: Level 2 arrangements and video demos for the Tune (and Song!) of the Week tunes are now available as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course. Learn more about it here.
Click here for a current list of all the clawhammer songs and tunes currently available inside of The Vault